The voting for the 2009 MLB All-Star Game comes to a close tonight, and, as I do annually, I've waited until the last possible day to cast my ballot.
Now that my ballot for the starters has been cast, I set out to create what would be my ideal rosters for the All-Star Game at the new Busch Stadium.
My rosters are based entirely on players' performances during the first half of the 2009 season, and are an attempt to show what the teams would look like if popularity were not a factor.
I did, however, abide by the rule of placing at least one player from each team on the rosters.
Let me know what you think of my All-Star teams in the comments.
Catcher: Joe Mauer (Twins)
First-Baseman: Justin Morneau (Twins)
Second-Baseman: Aaron Hill (Blue Jays)
Third-Baseman: Evan Longoria (Rays)
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett (Rays)
Left-Fielder: Jason Bay (Red Sox)
Center-Fielder: Torii Hunter (Angels)
Right-Fielder: Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners)
Starter: Joe Mauer
One can't say enough about Joe Mauer's production at the plate this season. The 26 year-old Twin has an American League best .392 average, 14 homers, and a robust 1.133 OPS. That would be phenomenal even if he weren't also a solid defensive catcher.
Reserve: Victor Martinez (Indians)
The switch-hitting V-Mart owns a .313/.393/.523 slash-line, and has also chipped in 19 doubles and 14 homers while logging a terrific 42/41 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
Starter: Justin Morneau (Twins)
Morneau has been a consistent force in the Twins lineup, posting solid numbers in each of the season's first three months. All together, he has a .309/.389/.574 line with 20 doubles and 19 dingers.
Reserves: Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox), Mark Teixeira (Yankees), Russell Branyan (Mariners)
Youkilis got off to a red-hot start, but has cooled off recently; nonetheless, he still sports a .314 average and 14 homers. Youk is also a near-flawless defender.
Teixeira has greatly upgraded the Yankees' defense at first-base, while also batting .278 with 20 dingers after a slow start.
Branyan has surprised everyone by posting a .298 average, while pounding 19 homers. Lucky or not, he has managed to compile a 1.110 OPS at the offensive sinkhole that is Safeco Field.
Starter: Aaron Hill (Blue Jays)
Aaron Hill is tied for the lead among AL second-basemen with 19 homers, and is also batting .301 this season. The 27 year-old is a plus defender, to boot.
Reserves: Ian Kinsler (Rangers), Robinson Cano (Yankees)
Kinsler's 19 homers are good enough for a tie with Hill, but his defense and .664 OPS on the road cost him the starting spot.
Cano did a terrific job holding down the fort while A-Rod was hurt and Teixeira was slumping. Overall, he has a .300/.332/.481 line at the plate, and is improving in the field.
Starter: Evan Longoria (Rays)
The 23 year-old Longoria's .297 average, 24 doubles, 16 homers, and .935 OPS make him a surefire All-Star. Couple that with excellent defense and he's also a strong MVP candidate.
Reserve: Brandon Inge (Tigers)
Inge has always had pop, but in addition to whacking 18 balls out of the yard, he's also logged a strong .275 average in 2009. His glovework at third is vital to an otherwise shaky defensive infield in Detroit.
Starter: Jason Bartlett (Rays)
After hitting just one home run all of last season, Bartlett has already mashed seven in the first half of this year.
He's also batting .362, has been successful on 17 of 18 steal attempts, and is among the best defensive shortstops in baseball.
Reserve: Marco Scutaro (Blue Jays)
A long-time A's super-sup, Scutaro didn't seem to have the tools necessary to be a starter.
Well, the Jays gave him a chance in 2009, installing him atop their batting order, and Scutaro has responded by drawing an AL-best 53 walks.
That's good for a .380 OBP, and in tandem with 23 doubles and a fine glove, it makes the 33 year-old an All-Star.
Left-Field: Jason Bay (Red Sox)
Though he has tailed-off into a slump after a hot start, Jason Bay remains an MVP candidate and is on pace for over 35 home runs and 130 RBI.
He has also provided a more stable presence in the Boston clubhouse, and been a sound replacement for Manny Ramirez.
Center-Field: Torii Hunter (Angels)
An unheralded first-half MVP candidate, Torii Hunter is batting .305/.384/.575 with 17 homers this season and has played fine defense in center.
He has also stolen 13 bases and been caught just thrice, providing the Halos with a strong, five-tool effort.
Right-Field: Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners)
Entering Thursday's game against the Yankees, Ichiro led all qualifying major leaguers with an elite .368 batting average.
He's on pace to once again eclipse the 200 hit mark, and is as good a defensive outfielder as there is in baseball.
Reserves: Ben Zobrist (Rays), Jermaine Dye (White Sox), Shin-Soo Choo (Indians)
Joe Maddon's pet, Tampa super-sub Ben Zobrist, leads the junior circuit with an amazing 1.051 OPS in a breakout season.
His versatility has been extremely valuable to the Rays, who have dealt with injuries at numerous positions throughout the first half, and with 16 homers to go with a .419 OBP, Zorilla is a darkhorse MVP candidate.
Dye has been remarkably consistent, batting at least .270 with 28 or more homers in four of the past five seasons, and this year has been no different. The Southsiders' right-fielder owns a .294 mark at the plate and has already authored 18 bombs.
One of the most underrated players in baseball, Choo has provided the Indians with ten homers and a .401 OBP so far this season, while stealing a dozen bases without getting caught. He is sound defensively, and will turn 27 the day before the Midsummer Classic.
Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke (Royals)
With a sparkling 10-3 ledger, a paltry 1.95 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, as well as an amazing 114/18 strikeout-to-walk ratio, there's little doubt that the 25 year-old Greinke has been the AL's best starting pitcher so far this season.
He's the Cy Young front-runner at this point, and thus gets the ball to start the All-Star Game.
Other Starting Pitchers:
Roy Halladay (Blue Jays) - Though he missed a couple of starts with an injury, Doc Halladay has been nearly as good as Greinke, posting a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 95-to-14 K/BB ratio.
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) - It's hard to believe that King Felix is just 23 years young, but he's having his best season yet: 8-3, 2.54 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 107-to-32 K/BB.
Edwin Jackson (Tigers) - The Tigers were thought to be on the losing end of the Jackson-for-Matt Joyce swap...that is, until the 25 year-old flamethrower put up a breakout effort in the first half, highlighted by a 2.49 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
Dallas Braden (Athletics) - The veteran of a youthful A's rotation, Braden has been excellent this year, even though his record is a measly 6-7. His 3.13 ERA and 67-to-28 K/BB tell a much clearer story.
Jered Weaver (Angels) - Weaver has held opposing right-handed hitters to a .178 average, en route to an 8-3 mark, supported by a 3.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He deserves significant praise for holding down the fort while John Lackey and Ervin Santana were on the shelf.
Justin Verlander (Tigers) - Though he has regressed of late, Verlander has been far better this season than last. He carries a 3.54 ERA and terrific 130 strikeouts in 109.1 innings into his 18th start of the year.
J.P. Howell (Rays) - Howell has been the rock at the end of a spotty Rays bullpen, and Joe Maddon would benefit greatly from bringing him along to St. Louis. Howell has allowed just 26 hits in 38.2 innings while fanning 46 batters; that's good for a brilliant 1.63 ERA.
Andrew Bailey (A's) - If you're looking for AL Rookie of the Year candidates, don't look past 25 year-old Andrew Bailey, who has emerged as a fine closer for the lowly Athletics.
He might only have eight saves to his name, but Bailey leads all junior circuit relievers in innings pitched (47.1), has held opposing hitters below the Mendoza line (.173 BA against), and has amassed 57 strikeouts over that span.
David Aardsma (Mariners) - Aardsma would seem to be an iffy option as a closer given his command troubles, but because he's allowed just 20 hits in 36.1 innings while striking-out 46, his 22 walks have mattered little.
With 16 saves in 17 chances and a 1.46 ERA, the former Giants first-rounder has been an excellent ninth-inning option for Don Wakamatsu.
Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox) - Paps's remarkable command has diminished this year, and he has just 34 strikeouts in 35 innings, but few Red Sox fans are complaining about his 20-for-22 save conversion rate and 1.80 ERA.
Mariano Rivera (Yankees) - If you think the Sandman is nearing the end of his line, think again. The 39 year-old Panamanian has an incredible 40-to-3 K/BB and has converted 20 of 21 save chances.
The Closer: Joe Nathan (Twins)
Should the AL need to slam the door on another victory, Joe Maddon should turn to Twins' closer Joe Nathan for the job.
Nathan is 21-for-23 in save chances this season, with an outstanding 0.77 WHIP and 39-to-6 K/BB ratio in 31.1 innings of work.
Catcher: Brian McCann (Braves)
First-Baseman: Albert Pujols (Cardinals)
Second-Baseman: Chase Utley (Phillies)
Third-Baseman: David Wright (Mets)
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)
Left-Fielder: Raul Ibanez (Phillies)
Center-Fielder: Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
Right-Fielder: Justin Upton (Diamondbacks)
Starter: Brian McCann (Braves)
Though he had some vision troubles early in the season, McCann has rebounded to post a terrific .310/.396/.510 slash-line with 14 doubles and eight homers.
The 25 year-old is also regarded as one of the best game-callers in baseball.
Reserve: Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
Arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball, the youngest Molina brother has also contributed at the plate this year, posting a .279 average.
It's his glove, though, that puts the hometown backstop on the Midsummer Classic roster.
Starter: Albert Pujols (Cardinals)
There isn't a better player in the game than the hometown first-sacker, and thus Pujols is a no-brainer to start.
With a .337 average and 30 homers already, plus a ridiculous 62-to-32 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and a good glove at first, No. 5 is No. 1.
Reserves: Adrian Gonzalez (Padres), Joey Votto (Reds), Prince Fielder (Brewers)
Gonzalez's average has plunged to .268, but he still has 24 homers, and is a .287/.398/.669 hitter away from the cavernous Petco Park.
His elite defense provides a nice kicker, and he might be a threat to blast 50 taters if Petco weren't his home yard.
Joey Votto (Reds)
Though Votto missed significant time with an anxiety disorder, he has been an absolute beast while in the lineup. The 25 year-old has a .354 average and 1.053 OPS, and he's been even better away from Great American Ballpark, proving that his performance is not a product of Cincy's bandbox.
Prince Fielder (Brewers)
There may not be a player in baseball who whips his bat harder than Prince Fielder, and with a .306 average to go with 20 monstrous blasts, the portly 25 year-old is deserving of a reserve spot.
Starter: Chase Utley (Phillies)
There isn't a better hitter who plays the keystone than Chase Utley, who has a .301 average and .988 OPS, while batting .326 away from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank.
Utley also boasts strong defensive skills, making him a cinch to get the starting nod.
Reserve: Freddy Sanchez (Pirates)
One of the unheralded, yet solid players in the league, Freddy Sanchez is batting .315 with 25 two-baggers for the Bucs this year.
He has also been nearly spotless in the field, making just a single error, en route to a .997 fielding percentage.
Starter: David Wright (Mets)
Citi Field may have sapped his power, but David Wright remains an excellent defender and one of the best pure hitters in baseball.
His .340/.427/.493 line and 23 doubles offer ample proof of that, and Wright is batting over .360 since the end of April.
Reserves: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals), Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks), Pablo Sandoval (Giants)
Zimmerman is one of the best defensive players at the hot corner in the league, but his batting average has dropped to .296 following a mediocre month of June. That cost him a spot in the starting lineup.
Reynolds has somehow managed to hit .270 despite being on pace to strikeout more than 200 times. He has also mashed 21 homers, and is learning to harness his athleticism in the field.
Sandoval, affectionately known in San Francisco as the Kung Fu Panda, is rapidly becoming one of the funnest players to watch in the league.
With a .332 average and 11 jacks, he has been the heart and soul of an otherwise dormant Giants offense.
Starter: Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)
He remains spotty in the field, but there may not be a more dynamic offensive player in the game than Hanley Ramirez.
The 25 year-old is batting .348/.413/.572 this season, with 26 doubles, 13 dingers, and a dozen steals. He has been absolutely unstoppable since the beginning of May.
Reserve: Miguel Tejada (Astros)
The resurgent Tejada is no longer an elite power hitter, but his high contact rate has led to an impressive .332 average.
Miggy has a chance to notch 200 hits this season, making up for his declining glovework.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez (Phillies)
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was criticized for dumping Pat Burrell for Raul Ibanez, but the ex-Mariner quickly put an end to that by obliterating the ball to the tune of a .312/.371/.656 slash-line and 21 homers in 250 at-bats.
Though he's currently shelved with a groin injury, Ibanez should recover in time to start in the Midsummer Classic.
Center Field: Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
The official ballot may not say so, but each team needs a center fielder, and with Carlos Beltran nursing an ailing knee, that role goes to Matt Kemp.
Fans at Chavez Ravine have happily witnessed the emergence of Kemp's five-tool potential, evidenced by his .302 average, .838 OPS, 10 homers, and 19 steals this season.
Right Field: Justin Upton (Diamondbacks)
It's hard to believe that Justin Upton could post the numbers he has at the age of 21; after all, only a handful of players have ever performed at his level when they were barely old enough to drink.
With a .315 average, .961 OPS, 14 homers, and 10 steals in the first half, however, Upton is proving that he'll be a star for many years to come.
Reserves: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Brad Hawpe (Rockies), Hunter Pence (Astros)
Fans in Milwaukee are being treated to a one-two lineup punch of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun that rivals the combination Boston had when Papi and Manny were in their primes.
Braun's .330 average and 16 homers as the "Manny" are more than enough to earn him a reserve gig in St. Louis.
Colorado's offense hasn't missed a beat with the departure of Matt Holliday thanks largely to the breakout of Brad Hawpe.
The 30 year-old right-fielder is tearing the cover off the ball, sporting a .330 average, 25 doubles, 13 homers, and an OPS north of 1.000.
Pence's sophomore slump stole the spotlight away from him after a fine rookie campaign, but he's bounced back well in his junior year with a .310/.382/.502 line, 29 extra-base hits, and eight steals.
An above-average glove rounds out his case for a spot on Charlie Manuel's bench.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum (Giants)
A couple of weeks ago, there was some debate over who would get the ball for the senior circuit to start the All-Star Game, but Tim Lincecum has just about sealed the assignment with three complete games in his last four starts, including a pair of shutouts.
Lincecum is 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA and stellar 132-to-28 K/BB ratio, putting him well on his way to a second Cy Young award at the age of 25.
Other Starting Pitchers:
Dan Haren (Diamondbacks)
Haren's 7-5 ledger is more a reflection of Arizona's atrocious offense than anything, because the 28 year-old has been absolutely dominant in the first half.
Haren leads the league in quality starts, and his 113-to-15 K/BB and 0.81 WHIP are nothing short of fantastic.
Matt Cain (Giants)
Though Lincecum gets the ball to start the game, Cain has matched him just about start-for-start in 2009, compiling nine victories and a 2.48 ERA.
Though his .143 batting average against with RISP is indicative of some luck, the 24 year-old Cain is a good bet to be a Cy Young contender at the end of the year.
Josh Johnson (Marlins)
Johnson has been defeated just once in 17 starts, and his 2.76 ERA and 1.13 WHIP are the reasons why. The 6'7" righty has come all the way back from Tommy John surgery, and has firmly established himself as one of the NL's top starters at the age of 25.
Johnny Cueto (Reds)
Edinson Volquez was Cincinnati's ace last season, but Cueto has stolen the spotlight this year, with a 2.69 ERA and 1.12 WHIP after 16 starts.
Were he not forced to toil in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Cueto might be on the mound to start the game.
Ted Lilly (Cubs)
The disappointing Cubs need a representative, and Ted Lilly is that guy.
The 33 year-old southpaw has anchored Lou Piniella's rotation, logging a solid 3.35 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 88-to-23 K/BB ratio. His 7-6 record is an indictment against the Northsiders' shoddy offense.
Yovani Gallardo (Brewers)
The 23 year-old native of Michoacan has been nothing short of outstanding in the first half, compiling a 2.75 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 114 strikeouts in 104.1 innings during which he has allowed only 74 hits.
Gallardo's comeback from a serious knee injury is the reason the Brewers have not missed CC Sabathia or Ben Sheets.
Francisco Rodriguez (Mets)
He has had his meltdowns—most notably walking Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded on national TV —but K-Rod has settled into his new digs well, making good on 21 of his 23 save opportunities.
That he's only allowed 21 hits and a single dinger in 37.2 innings makes up for Rodriguez's nonplussing 39-to-22 K/BB ratio.
Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)
The 36 year-old Franklin is having a career year as Tony La Russa's ninth-inning man, posting a minuscule 0.90 ERA and tidy 0.80 WHIP so far. He has made good on 18 of 19 save tries and allowed only 19 hits in 30 innings of work.
Heath Bell (Padres)
The Padres have 34 wins this season and Heath Bell has saved 22 of them. Stepping into the shoes of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman is never easy, but Bell has done it wonderfully, with a 1.34 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 33.2 innings.
He has also been an absolute menace to right-handed hitters, strangling them to the tune of a .056 batting average against.
The Closer: Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers)
Striking out as many batters as you allow hits is impressive, striking out nearly four times as many batters as you allow hits is just plain ridiculous.
But that's exactly what the Dodgers' mammoth closer has done this year, with just 16 hits allowed and 62 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. Broxton has also converted 19 of 21 save chances and authored a perfect 6-0 record.
That's why he should get the ball if the NL has the lead at the end of the game.
The National League's superior pitching depth finally thwarts the American League, giving the senior circuit its first Midsummer Classic victory since 1996.
Josh Johnson earns the win in relief of Tim Lincecum, while David Aardsma suffers the loss. Jonathan Broxton is credited with the save.
The game-winning blow: a three-run, eighth-inning home run by Adrian Gonzalez.
The final score: National League 5, American League 3
The MVP: Adrian Gonzalez